Thuy wants to overcome the bullies that taunt her.
Graphite-and–digital color illustrations show Thuy sadly walking home from menacing bullies at school. Thuy is Asian and wears an adorable cat hat over her straight, shoulder-length black hair. Tran’s bubbly cartoon style excels at Thuy’s many facial expressions. In “the crisp, white blanket of new snow,” Thuy’s footprints begin to embody animals that she admires: “V” shapes for a cardinal that can fly from danger, deep stomps for a towering grizzly bear, and others. When her two loving parents, Momma Ngoc and Momma Arti (the former likely Vietnamese, like Thuy, and the latter South Asian), join her in this therapeutic imaginary play, together all three become a phoenix, then the Hindu Sarabha, and then a whole new creature—complete with heart-shaped footprints. By including colorful double-page spreads of the phoenix and Sarabha and further information about these ancient creatures in the backmatter, the book sends a powerful message about the strength children can draw from their own cultural heritage. With this story about two moms joining their daughter through child-centered play to face adversity as one, Phi explains in his author’s note, he hopes to nurture the marginalized and challenge “systems of harm.” Even though Thuy’s repetition of the titular phrase stilts the story’s rhythm at times, this doesn’t overshadow the underlying message: It’s good to open up to the people who love you.
Both a meaningful effort toward inclusion and a solid conversation starter about bullying. (Picture book. 5-9)